A time to reflect

From my sister in Christ (serving beside her here in Bercy!) Amanda:

respire lavi

For those of you who don’t know, I came back from Haiti due to illness. I am hoping not to be here for long, but am in need of some quality Dr. visits. I don’t “know” what I have, but I know that for the past 6 weeks or so I have been back and forth with some serious headaches and nausea. I have been seen by many Dr.’s in Haiti, including an American Dr. friend of ours. I was tested for Malaria and Typhoid, both came back negative. The Dr. is pretty sure I have/had Dengue fever, an illness spread from mosquitos. We will find out this week when I go to the Dr. what they diagnose.  I feel a WORLD better since being back in the States, not because it is the States, but because I think the fever was decreasing this week and my body was relieved!

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Monday Morning

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Have you followed me and seen pictures from Rodney, a boy (the only boy) I trust with my phone when he asks to take pictures? Best smile in Bercy, an extremely sweet but also extremely fun attitude, and the tendency to run up to me and grab my hand to join me when I have tasks to do around the community. I had something I wanted to ask his school something today and asked if I could go with him in the morning – he said of course!

Rodney: Will you wait for me to get out and I’ll walk you home?

Me: Rodney, what? Wait for you? Until when?

Rodney: School is over at noon

Me: Um….buddy, I have a lot of other stuff to do. I’m just gonna walk with you then go back home.

Rodney: Will Mickens come get you on the moto?

Me: No…I can walk

Rodney: (does the Haitian double gasp that shows surprise)

I was a little confused…Rodney, I can walk! He was half wanting to be the one to take me home (he walks me home daily, barely taller than my waist with a pair of shorts and no shoes on that tiny body full of joy) but also seemed surprised as if it’d be far….but come on, he walks there every day on foot at seven in the morning! And when she isn’t sick, his smaller sister Tasha is right beside him! I knew it wouldn’t be too far.

So this morning, I’ve got my coffee down and my head up looking for my friend to come knocking on our gate. I invited Cory & his wife Abby, who are visiting this week, to come with us. They ask where we’re going, I honestly reply I have no clue but that my guess is ten minutes.

Rodney shows up with that grin, no food in his belly but you’d never know as he takes my hand and he’s ready to go. With a ‘Bonjou!’ to Cory and Abby, we get on our way with his brother in tow.

He asks for my phone and starts taking some pictures as we walk, most of them with his finger blocking half the view. The smile never leaves his face and he greets each farmer and neighbor we pass by name as they fondly smile back and do the same – men with machetes, women going to market, guys leading their donkeys and cows to….wherever you take your donkeys and cows. One man stops to give a spare 5 gourd coin to each boy to buy some food (aka, the “one dollar” cookies sold all over). Every minute, I’m sure we’re about to have the school pointed out to us.

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Then we turn from flat, rocky paths to a little incline/decline action and some
more trees. This is probably ten minutes in, possibly more.

“Almost there?”

I’m sure you get where I’m going here…the answer, even though he said “almost”, was not almost. You know the whole ‘When I was your age I walked 3 miles uphill both ways to a one room schoolhouse….’? Well. That’s where this story goes. We passed a home where Rodney used one of the two dollar coins to buy a pack of ‘bon-bons’, offering them to all of us. Students in different colored uniforms pass is heading towards Bercy (I asked, we were outside Bercy by this point). More cows. Up, down, over a dried up riverbed.

We get to the longest incline of all, and Rodney says “After this hill, the school is after we go down” (at least, that what I understood from it in my limited Creole). He’s been asking “are you tired?” to all three of us Americans, taking my hand or Abby’s to be reassuring or help. I love this kid.

We get to the top of the hill, I’m expecting to look down and see the school.

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Do you see that tiny white thing? “That’s the school”, Rodney points it out to me.

We’ve been walking for who knows how long now. I really don’t know if I can get to that building that looks so tiny at this point. I keep thinking….he walks this every day. I look down, thankful shoes are a requirement for school since he doesn’t wear shoes any other time (he can’t afford $2.50 sandals for everyday use). I suck it up as Rodney continues in with his smile, getting to school a little slower than usual because of us I’m sure.

I can’t help but think, especially with a great friend like Rodney who has his share of responsibility that I see him own up to each day: these kids are like adults in their little bodies, in all they do. Walking alone for what has to be miles. Greeting adults by name, guiding a 23-year-old girl by the hand. His responsibilities as an older brother at home, despite how young he still is (under ten years old, I’m pretty sure). But it’s balanced with a boy who is clearly still just that – a boy, a child, continually full of joy and constantly running at me full speed as he tells my name. Seen as he takes a tire all over Bercy with him, pretending it’s a car or racing it, balancing on it when everyone is sitting in the shade. Heard when at the very last corner he finally gets tired and expresses it (but conversationally, not complaining)…and then also lights up at a simple tiny snack bag of pretzels to re-energize after the walk to school. Eyes lighting up, “These are good! Mesi Stephanie!” And that giant smile, again.

We finally arrive at the school and he runs to line up for the flag song (sang with all the students lined up as the flag is raised) – showing that little boy side off again as he jumps into place a few minutes late. I love this kid.

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We arrive, the view is ridiculous, the school looks like a tent home doubled in size. 70 students go here, many kids as old as, or older than, Rodney are attending school for the first time and learning how to write – I see the joy and pride in the director’s eye as he talks about this. I realize why we walked this far…this man in charge has a heart for the kids, for education, and for building a better Haiti. The last part, he said himself. The rest, was said for him in the way he talked about the school. This is the school that will work with Rodney’s mother, who has barely paid for any of her four children who are attending (I know 2 walked today – the other two didn’t come because of sickness). I see a man that we are always looking for but is so hard to find, with a sustainable mindset, a heart for people instead of money, and real motivation and belief in building for Haiti’s future. We literally pray for this here at CPR-3, all of the time. So thankful to have met this man today.

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We start to walk back and we’re exhausted, Cory and Abby and myself. We still have to walk back…and we’ve walked a while. I keep thinking “20 minutes, at least!”…..Abby says, “it’s been over an hour”.

What.

In the end, we were out for two hours, to the school and back.

We walk back and as we talk I just keep thinking, every day. He walks this, every day.

*Cory is here as Director of CPR-3’s developing #STOPdoingWRONG campaign. Social justice, child slavery, education and awareness….keep your eyes out.

Stained Glass

Especially as we face tough times in everyday life here, I love this beautifully written blog by my dear sister in Christ (and dear friend!) Amy.

miscellany of my mind

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The sun peeks through the glass shining multi-colored rays on the floor. The sight of it almost took her breath away…each hue seeming to sing a song of magnificence. The depth of each color and how it danced across the room was awe inspiring and fit the mood of the room, as each person bowed their heads to pray. It wasn’t always like this…this beautiful scene that captured all who looked upon it. That stained glass window had a past.

You see, at one time, the red pane lived a life in a Christmas shop, greeting passersby as they scanned the store for the next gift on their list. The small blue pane belonged to an elderly lady- a gift from a beloved relative who had passed on years before. The bright golden yellow, the lush green, the deep purple, the orange that was the color of a summer sunset…they…

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It’s in the details

Sitting in a small, dark and crowded “home” the size of my own bedroom but made to fit about six bodies instead of one, I wasn’t surprised to see another foot wound on one of the many boys that plays in the crowd of siblings, cousins, and friends near Nadia’s home. As it sprinkled outside and we drank tea (that tasted like anything BUT what I was expecting) in Bo’s home, Rodney’s dirt caked wound was pointed out to me. I called him over (he was outside) and after examining, I asked if he had sandals. After he nodded, I told him that once the rain stopped I would take him to my house and clean the details of dirt from the cut if he would clean the mud from his soles and wear sandals to keep his feet clean on the walk over. I told him that this was important because an infection would be a lot worse than the bloody foot he’d gotten earlier in the day.

After another half hour of visiting, I stood up as the girls started to do household chores and Nadia went to her house to bathe herself and Westhalineda for the night. Nadia called “Rodney!” for me and the boy showed up, wearing his oversized orange tank top (and that’s it), ready to go. I looked down to check if he had followed my instructions and he stood there with a pair of sandals nearly double his size and freshly washed feet. Yes, he had followed my instructions. And his “yes” to owning sandals really meant that his brother owned a pair that he was allowed to borrow since Stephanie said he had to wear sandals. I hid any sign of “feeling sorry” about it to hold Rodney’s dignity up and thanked him for washing his feet and getting ‘his’ sandals.

We walked to my house – Bo coming with us because she asked (the family loves the chance to go somewhere with me, it’s something new to do) and because I agreed I may need her help to hold him down. I did this exact type of medical help about two weeks ago, ironically on Rodney’s cousin who lives in Cabaret (Bercy to Cabaret is Ohio’s Reynoldsburg to Columbus). TiKris had accompanied me that day and had quite the job of holding her cousin down as he jerked, screamed, and probably decided that he didn’t like me anymore. An extra pair of hands can never hurt.

What was the medical help, exactly? A deep cut in the foot from stepping on a broken Coke bottle. Here, sodas are in glass bottles. Fun to teams, cheap to refill, awful for barefoot little boys. Last time I had to clean multiple cuts and do butterfly stitches/medical glue – luckily, Rodney’s was not as bad. But as for an active boy about 8 years old (but the size of six years), the wound was much dirtier. My job was to use alcohol wipes, q-tips, and hydrogen peroxide to clean this foot out. (See: scrape caked dirt out.) (Also see: reasons why I would never want to be in the medical field, I can’t handle this) Last time, Mickens took over for me because I couldn’t handle the combination of dealing with the wound and inflicting more pain. This time, it was all Bo and I.

So these cuts – the glass is thick, and it also goes deep. So this isn’t a sliver. This is a chunk of skin, CUT. Have you ever had it seen a wound where it looks like a full centimeter of flesh was cut through, that’s the size of the flap of broken skin? That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Rodney was SO brave, a combination of both his temperament and feet that were just THAT calloused. I was almost finished with the wound as I looked over his foot in the dying light as the sun went down. “Oh, no.”. He looked up at my English phrase with a questioning look and I warned him in Creole that I wasn’t done, as I had now spotted at least three more deep flesh wounds, missing chunks of skin like the one I was dealing with. No blood, but had to have hurt. I went to start in them and he gently told me “you don’t have to do those”. Rodney, of course I will! “No, those are old”.

And I sat back. This tiny foot, a little over half the size of my own, was covered in deep gashes from the past. CHUNKS of missing skin, not cuts but CHUNKS. This kid is a trooper.

I got neosporin, a bandage, and some socks from my room to keep his foot clean and sent him on his way after he and Bo both got a glass of clean water. Bo was probably thinking I was a drama queen as I’d warned her about holding Rodney down, when all he’d ended up doing was wincing at the hydrogen peroxide.

I went to clean up the porch, my own “minute clinic”, and reflect on all the roles I play in a day. Nurse, check.

Skip to just before the sun was about to set the next day – I’m sitting on our guest house roof watching neighborhood boys practice soccer moves when I see that oversized orange shirt walking past the tree in front of the Sant Mouvman.

“Rodney! How’s the foot?”

“Good!” (I guessed was what he said, he was too far for his little voice to carry)

He said something else and seeing that I couldn’t understand, came to stand under my dangling legs. I hopped up and skipped down the steps to meet him at the gate. He was barefoot again and had some small cut on his previously wound-free foot, caked in dirt. I’m careful about over-helping (people will quickly start coming to the gate for an alcohol wipe or bandaid for everything you can imagine), but as he stood in that same oversized shirt I decided to bring him in and use the chance to re-clean yesterday’s cut as well.

He was quiet again, and as I started to use alcohol prep wipes on the bottle cut he started to giggle. Turning to the friend he’d come in with, he kept cracking up – “What?!” I asked, wondering if there was a joke about me helping him….as I pulled out more wipes and cleaned his skin, I realized – I was tickling his foot! I couldn’t help laughing with him as I talked with him about how he must be a little crazy to laugh at something that should be making his foot burn. He only laughed harder. As I cleaned I kept stopping to bat flies away – why did they have to buzz in my face right now?! – and I continued to talk as I worked (it helps me deal with digging the dirt out, and it’s a great chance to learn more about the person I’ve taken by the hand to come a little closer as I attempt to help them with what resources God’s given us here). With the caked on dirt today, I asked to confirm my suspicions, “do you have sandals?” Rodney replied in between giggles, “no”.

I’m used to kids who are barefoot, but sometimes they just have sandals they aren’t using, especially boys. I had suspected it anyw– HEY! For real, why do I have to keep waving flies away??!

Then I turned my head to look over at Rodney. In the same shirt for at least two days now, no sandals and his sweet face that had now turned to wincing as the tickling had finally cleaned down to the wound and was now burning slightly….I was batting bugs away because they were swarming HIM. Attracted to him, they circled his head – something he was clearly used to as he was not fazed or even attempting to wave his hand at them.

Now, a lot of teams come here with big hearts and say, “They don’t care what they look like, and they’re so happy!” – –
in the most delicate way I can say this,
not true. Yes, America cares a ridiculous amount MORE and spends mountains more on appearance, but my friends in Bercy care. You dress up for market, you bathe each day, and school is like getting ready for Easter Sunday on a daily basis. Kids may not bathe every day, just like in the States, but they DO bathe, okay? And they notice every speck of dirt – because they point it out, too. And here’s Rodney. I’m guessing it’s been at least three days in this orange tank top since his last bath – which is really just some cups of dirty water and soap scrubbed in.

I sit in our loft and overlook a dry and impoverished community. I drive through Port-au-Prince on occasion and see the overpopulation, the building right on top of rubble, the trash that seems to coat the road at times. In market I buy from women who are fighting for their life, rising early in the morning to ride into Cabaret on a donkey and sell some ‘provisions’ to make just enough gourde to scratch a meal together that will be split to feed triple the amount of people that it’s meant to. These have become a part of the day, the scenery around me, that’s the environment of the country that my Father wants me to call home. These things don’t really “break” me every time I see (& smell) them. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying, the overarching issues still tug at me and they don’t rest well in my heart, there’s no “it’s okay, that’s just how things are here*”.

But it’s these moments, it’s one-on-one interactions, many times with someone I was not even planning on pulling closer into my life, that break my heart all over again. This sweet boy, who has been playing with an old tire all week after a month of making and showing off handmade kites from old bags and sticks, who is wearing this SAME orange shirt and nothing else – including some sort of shoe that could keep incidents like stepping on bottles and everything else that has scarred him from happening. This boy, who did not ask to be helped and giggles through the first half of cleaning his dirt caked wound and sweetly listens to each instruction I give, quickly acting to wash his foot or turn it ‘just so’ as I open another alcohol wipe. He is caked in the same dirt as yesterday, which today’s dust has piled on top of….and these flies are swarming around his tiny head because of it.

Boys are dirty. It’s a fact of life. But not all boys, including in the kids here, have bugs attracted to them because of how long their family has gone without enough water to spare for a bath. (After all, there’s no money for Rodney to go to school so why use the bath water? He’s not going ‘out’. In the economy of life here, I really do understand why that makes sense in the family.) Not all boys are wearing that same oversized pumpkin orange tank top with nothing else, including sandals to guard little feet running through broken glass.

It’s in these moments that God chooses to break my heart again. It’s getting in people’s lives up close, it’s in the details where God finds space to speak to our hearts. For a boy I wasn’t planning on, who runs past me
with his ‘cap’ or old tire each day. It’s in these moments that I break from the inside out, God WHY? Why is money distributed so unevenly and why are we so full of ourselves yet still unsatisfied and why doesn’t Rodney have a pair of stinkin’ two dollar and fifty cent sandals? Flies were not meant to swarm around little boys heads.

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Two nights ago Rodney sat outside a church service in Bercy on his tire (I’m not kidding, it goes everywhere), looking in as the overcrowded building sang as loud as it could. I sat down beside him and put a plastic bag on the inside of the rubber. He knew what I was doing but didn’t look. In whispers, “God gave me some sandals for you. Please don’t tell people that I gave them to you, okay?” And we sat on the tire together, watching the congregation file out into the community as they continued to sing the whole walk home.

Yesterday Rodney was running around as I walked out of Nadia’s yard. A pair of black sandals from market on his feet, he looked up at me with a glint in his eye and grabbed my hand to squeeze it for a moment. I squeezed it back and I pray, God, that he really does look back one day and understand where those sandals came from.

{*I’m reading an excellent book that actually comments on this, kind of. My heart is stirring over a quote I’m sure you’ll hear from me soon.}

Jessica & Hope Update

Because I know people love them 🙂

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A few Sundays ago, Hope was surprisingly talking, laughing, and playing! She took my hand web I tore myself away from the home they’re at and started to walk towards church – and then came Jessica running up giggling as we walked! She said she wanted to go to church so we went back and she picked the clothes for nth girls to change into and we went! (That explains the hair, by the way…)

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And then there’s this PRECIOUS photo, she wanted to take them even though she wasn’t feeling great. With an eye infection she’s missed almost a whole week of the school she was so excited to start at. Brought her here one afternoon when she couldn’t stop crying because of the pain and she was able to get some water, medicine, and love….turning her back into giggly Jessica!

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And both girls came two days ago after a doctor check up to double check their eyes and make sure the infections were on their way out. LOOK AT HOPE! If you were here you’d see me squealing over this picture like a preteen over a pop concert – playing with Amanda had her smiling like this, which is a big deal! Jessica was busy coloring 🙂

So for a quick update, these are highlights if course and don’t show everything but they are doing GREAT! Prayers are so evident in their life as well as the love of the family caring for them. Jessica is fully healing (although now I see an outbreak in all the children near Nadia’s house…) and they’re smiles are becoming more and more common! Jessica lives kindergarten and she’s very smart 🙂

Thank you for your prayers for these sweeties!

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School has started…

Second week of school just ended and I love this picture that was taken while my phone was being played with by my little friend Rodney, a nine year old boy who walked with us as Amanda and I went to CPR-3’s partner school in Bercy. We’re busy being the feet on the ground for child sponsorship, especially Amanda! Books, finding children, seamstresses, bookkeeping, Moringa, attendance…..it’s an exciting time here, as always!

Aside

I walked onto the second story porch to hear a sound so familiar, even though I hadn’t heard it during this time of day for months. Drums.

Not just any drums.

I looked over at Mickens and asked him in Creole, “vodou?” He looked back, “wi”.

He told me he could show me, and even though I knew where it was coming from I went with him. As we walked I tried to learn, and knowing a common theme for ceremonies I asked if it may be for someone who is sick.

Mickens replied yes non-commitedly, then started to talk about the real root being money. For Satan (the literal word he used*), from Satan. “They just want money. It’s not good.”

*We weren’t heading towards the home of a vodou priest, but a green building that I can’t remember the name of for the life of me this second that has ‘temple’ on it as it’s the equivalent of one, for the devil. More than vodou this place is literally for giving things to the devil. Not to be confused with vodou, which is not normally associated with satan by those who practice it. Mickens replied vodou because it all gets grouped together.

Especially haunting on an abnormally overcast afternoon, we walked as the heavy sky was minutes away from rain and I had so little I could say. We circled Bercy and passed the building as they openly danced and raised instruments in the pavilion, a sight I had been expecting since we first set out. I know the ceremonies, the feeling in my stomach when I see peoples faces so in the moment and I get the gut feeling of wanting to wrap them up and open their eyes myself and ask them if they really find hope here. I kept looking forward as we passed men making comments about my presence further down the path and used my limited Creole to try to communicate with Mickens….”When they die, that money will be gone.”

Mickens nodded, agreed, and talked about why Jesus is better. We both knew but you can’t pass and not talk about it as your mind tries to grasp why others would put their hope there, of all places. And as he spoke…it just hit as a low blow. It was so clear in that moment: The exact same idol that born-and-raised Christians struggle with is the key component here.

Money. ‘Security’, or the feeling of it. Social status (that includes what you’re willing to do for more followers or half a dozen more likes). There’s this sad, sick feeling as I think about it – because I’m no better.

Here we are with the perfect, all-knowing Creator of the ridiculous mountain and ocean view I get each day and the beautiful, crisp autumn colors that I’m missing. The God whose character is somehow 100% – faithful, loving, a present help in trouble, beautiful. Everything on the earth is HIS, including whatever coins we’re throwing around for our temporary stuff in whatever country we’re in and what do we do? We choose to chase the money. The beauty. The boyfriend who the world says will fill all yearnings to be known and save us from any trouble. Instead of the one who made it, we go the opposite direction in a feeble attempt to get it and control it and live this great life driven by a bank account or pretty face – both of which are CLEARLY everlasting, right?

Yes, the war is more visible here. Yes, here there’s an actual ceremony going on and members are literally sacrificing to the devil. Yes, people in Bercy are lost. But how dare we ask how people are so blind? How could people choose THAT? How could their hope be in THAT?

Friends, if we aren’t chasing God there’s no difference – whether or not we hide it in our hearts instead of dancing to drums on aWednesday night – we’re lost. We have let the enemy draw glory to something that is not the Lord. We have out our hope in ….that.

The beautiful news is that no matter what we have chosen to this point, all we have to do is turn around. He’s right there waiting. Did I mention patient earlier? Forgiving? Cause those are a part of God too.

We need to understand that we are just as entirely lost as the dear members of my community drumming away today. We need to understand that until we turn to him, nothing will last.

Not just eternally – it’s usually a challenge to get any of the idols we worship to last long at all.

I didn’t mention money being gone at death to be a downer with Mickens, or to be dramatic because that’s the only way you’re going after a dark ceremony – I mentioned it because it sums it up. Work hard, choose the idol, chase it, give yourself over to it, lift chants to the sky for it…and what? What happens? Don’t you feel empty when you look at the big picture with a focus of something so temporary? Yes, it’s important now, I get it, believe me – I have kids too young to talk begging me for change. But how we need to stretch to the One whose importance is higher by leaps and bounds. And then some. And notice I didn’t say ‘waving hello on Sunday’ or ‘reposting that convicting quote on Insta’ earlier. I said chasing

And when you look at the big picture with Him…all of a sudden, it’s so full. The exact same thought that crosses everyone’s mind when they hear the drums…”Why would you chase anything else?”

A Walk Around the Block